Copilot’s “Panic” On Air India Express Jet


The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DCGA), India, has recommended “appropriate action” against the crew of an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 after a copilot’s seat adjustment led to the rapid loss of 5,000 feet and his own panic. No one was injured in the May 26 incident that involved 113 passengers, but the DCGA report states the copilot was not trained for the situation. The situation was that the aircraft was cruising at 37,000 feet in fully automated flight en route to Pune out of Dubai, when the 39-year-old captain stepped out of the cockpit for a trip to the restroom. The 25-year-old copilot then adjusted his seat forward and inadvertently pushed the control column. That initiated the descent and, according to the DCGA, the copilot’s subsequent actions (which may have involved adjustments to the autopilot) did not correct the situation but instead caused the aircraft to roll from level. Meanwhile, the captain was locked outside of the cockpit trying to gain access.

The copilot later told the DCGA that he “got in a panic situation.” At that point, he was unable to correct the flight condition and unable to open the cockpit door. Finding the copilot unresponsive, the captain used an emergency code to gain access to the cockpit. The captain then initiated steps to recover the aircraft, but the DCGA found some of his inputs (pulling back on the yoke) conflicted with those being applied by the copilot (who was pushing forward). According to, the DCGA concluded that “the incident occurred due to inadvertent handling of the control column in fully automated mode by the copilot, which got compounded as he was not trained to recover the aircraft in automated mode.”